New year, new opportunity to make some plans and set some intentions. We gathered a dozen New Year’s resolutions for seniors that you can adopt for yourself or use as inspiration.
Resolution 1: Review legal documents.
Getting your legal documents organized is a new spin on the traditional “get organized” New Year’s resolution. “This is really more for your loved ones than for yourself,” says Brien Kinkel, a retired teacher in Washington, DC, who spent years caring for his parents. “You may have a will, a living will, and advanced directives in all their various forms. Resolve to meet with a lawyer and make sure each document is current, legal and reflective of your personal desires.”
Resolution 2: Get current on your vaccinations.
“It’s easy to put these things off when your doctor recommends them, but they’re important,” says Fadia Zawaideh, a pharmacist in Silver Spring, MD. “Flu, pneumonia, shingles – these are all important vaccines and can save your life.” Talk with your doctor or pharmacist in January about any shots you may have missed.
Resolution 3: Inventory your medications.
Zawaideh tells the surprisingly common story of a woman whose doctor prescribed a 50mg dose of her medication. For years, she took five 10mg pills every single morning. But one month her prescription was refilled with 50mg pills, so she would only have to take one per day – except she missed that part. “She unknowingly took a nearly toxic dose,” Zawaideh recalls. Ask your pharmacist to email you a list of all the meds you’re on and the dosages, send a copy to a friend or family member, and keep a copy on your cell phone. You might also consider a medication dispenser, especially if you or your partner has any cognitive challenges.
Resolution 4: Try something new.
This year, get out of your comfort zone. “Make a new friend. Learn a new game. See a movie or read a book you know nothing about,” says Seattle-based Mary Ann Andersen. “Adventure doesn’t have to involve physical risk or danger. Every day can be an adventure if you simply resolve to try something new.”
Resolution 5: Challenge yourself.
Mental challenges like Sudoku, quizzes, crossword or jigsaw puzzles will improve mental strength, which can improve memory. Physical challenges enable you to gradually improve balance, endurance, strength, flexibility and overall health. Talk to your doctor about physical activity that’s right for you, set a goal and then work with her or him to devise a plan to gradually and safely increase it.
Resolution 6: De-clutter.
Holding on to some sentimental items makes sense because it increases our quality of life and reminds us of happy times and great experiences. But there’s likely a lot of stuff that you don’t need and that your children don’t want. Commit to begin divesting yourself of items that don’t have special meaning, and to decluttering and organizing what you do keep. That will make it easier for you day-to-day, and for your children later.
Resolution 7: Understand your fall risk.
“Falls are the leading cause of injury for Americans over 65.1 Even if you’re active and steady, you could be at an elevated risk for a fall because of medications you’re on or underlying medical conditions. Make a resolution to talk to your physician about your risk of falling, investigate how to re-arrange things in your home to make it safer, and consider a personal medical alert device with fall detection.
Resolution 8: Forgive those who deserve it.
Grudges, slights and old scores weigh us down. Forgiveness makes us lighter and happier. This year, choose one person and work to let them off the hook. Then make the same commitment to yourself. “Take stock of who you are, and remember you’re a better person than you give yourself credit for,” says Ralph Higgins, a retired ship captain in San Francisco. “Too often, we taunt ourselves with, ‘If only I had…’ and ‘If only I hadn’t….’ You don’t have to do that anymore.”
Resolution 9: Embrace technology.
Innovation can be intimidating, but it also can be a gateway to a higher quality of life. This year, decide to try one new technology. Apps make it easy to get a ride, order groceries or pay your bills. Video chatting with far-flung family and friends is more satisfying than a phone call, text or email. Social media makes it easier to stay connected to the people you care about. eBooks, games and other apps put amusements and favorite hobbies in the palm of your hand. There are even online support communities for people living with certain medical conditions, or who are caring for spouses with chronic physical or cognitive conditions.
Resolution 10: Keep laughing!
We all know laughter is the best medicine. “Find the friends, movies, comedians, books and other things that have made you laugh throughout your life,” says Higgins. “Go back and reestablish those connections. If something made you laugh before, chances are it’ll make you laugh now.”
Resolution 11: Share memories.
Reliving happy memories can lift your spirits and others’. Make a New Year’s resolution to capture those memories in a more lasting way by making audio or video recordings on your cell phone, tablet or laptop. You could even engage your grandchildren or nieces and nephews to help. If writing is more your style, start a journal of your favorite memories or important facts and dates you want your family to know about. Feeling crafty? Make a scrapbook. If you’re really serious, contact a personal historian to work with you to tell your story and then create a digital or hard copy book recounting your life.
Resolution 12: Revisit your old resolutions.
“Go back and look at some of the things you’ve resolved in the past,” Andersen suggests, “and ask yourself if they’re still necessary.” Give yourself permission to repeal the ones that aren’t. “Sometimes we hold ourselves to strict standards that quite frankly have outlived their usefulness. Giving up fried chicken might have been a really good idea when you were in your 50s,” she says, “but if you’re in your 80s and you really miss it, maybe you could revisit that.”
At any stage of life, the New Year is a compelling opportunity to take stock of what we’re doing, and to make the changes we’d like. But you’ve earned the privilege of making any change you want, any day of the year. After all, there’s no law saying we can only improve our lives on the first day of January. If making a new resolution will improve your life, isn’t every day the right day?